Family prefers West Point

Throughout the Mitroka house, family photographs tell a story.

Here's one of the whole clan: Mom's next to Dad in his Army uniform. Brother G. A. is in his. Twin sisters Kristy and Kathy are in dress whites and caps. There's Tim, the baby, in a plain blue suit and a tie.


Here's one of the four Mitroka children: G. A.'s in his West Point graduation uniform. Kristy and Kathy grin beside him in matching West Point uniforms. And Tim's on the end in shorts and a T-shirt.

No more.


At the end of the month, 17-year-old Tim will be the last member of his family to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Tim's father, George Mitroka, 44, graduated from the Academy in 1977, the year after women were admitted.

Tim's brother, George Andrew (G. A.), graduated from the program last month.

And his twin sisters will be seniors there when school resumes this summer.

"I'm just counting down the days," Tim Mitroka said this week. "I can't wait."

West Point officials say it's fairly common for generations of families to attend the school - great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers and sons - but less so for almost every member of one entire family to be admitted.

It's unusual, too, because of the stringent admissions process. New cadets have to be nominated just to apply, and they have to meet strict admissions criteria before a nomination is considered: The incoming cadets must be physically fit, mentally sound, academically above-average, natural leaders, U.S. citizens, unmarried without dependents, and in excellent health.

For example, 10,701 men and 2,043 women sought nominations for next year's graduating class; 4,308 earned nominations, but just over 2,050 qualified, and only 1,192 were admitted. Mitroka's sisters were two of them.


The competitiveness is one reason Tim was so excited about being accepted. "I had the hardest time getting in," Tim said. "I just jumped for joy. It was the greatest news I ever heard in my life. I was speechless for a while."

Because nepotism knows no place in the Academy, Tim really worked to get accepted, George Mitroka said. Tim had to take the SATs more than once to meet the academic requirements. His high school lacrosse coach wrote a recommendation and directed it to the West Point lacrosse coach, whom he knows well. And every Mitroka family member helped Tim navigate the tedious admissions process, because they'd all done it before.

'A lot of mixed emotions'

"I've seen it as a girlfriend, a wife and now a mother," said Nancy Mitroka, 44, who dated George Mitroka through high school and all four years of West Point. The couple, married for 23 years, lived on West Point's campus when George taught math there while his children were in grade school.

"I know this whole thing pretty well. Although it is different because he's the last one. There's a lot of mixed emotions."

Tim wanted to go to West Point in part because of the strong family tradition. "I think he kinda felt a little slighted," Nancy said. "He wanted in."


It wasn't always that way. As an underclassman at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Tim was adamantly opposed to the idea. Waking at 5 a.m., scaling mountains, running miles and miles with 50 pounds on your back? Not a chance, he told people who asked whether he planned to follow in his siblings' and father's footsteps.

"I didn't know what I was thinking back then," he said. "I guess just playing football."

Tim and his parents insist there was never any family pressure to attend. Although they are proud of their older children, the parents tried not to overdo the West Point zeal.

"You can't do it for Mom and Dad. You have to do it for yourself," George said. "When you're into your third week of Beast Barracks [new cadet boot camp], staring at the ceiling, probably wetting your pillow because you're thinking, 'What am I doing here?' you have to be able to say to yourself, 'Because I want it.' Not because Mom and Dad want it."

'Wanted more' from college

After visiting the New York school time and time again for lacrosse camps, his sisters' softball games and other events, Tim decided he did want it, after all.


"I looked at what all the other colleges had to offer, and it was basically just more education," Tim said. "I just wanted more out of a college than just a great education - all the character, the discipline, the good morals. It's a lot more work, but it's good for you in the outcome, all the benefits. Knowing that you're serving your country makes you feel good, makes you feel proud."

Tim leaves July 28 for the Academy. In between all the running, push-ups, sit-ups and advice from his family members, Tim is watching all the television he can in his last few days of freedom. He's squeezing in time with his girlfriend and his buddies before he has to turn in his shorts and T-shirts for BDUs - Battle Dress Uniforms - with "Mitroka" stamped on the inside.

The BDUs may be green and drab, but Tim said he can't wait to put them on and stand proud like his father, brother and sisters before him.

And George and Nancy Mitroka have the family camera ready to go.